Meristem Land and Science: Driving Progress in Sustainability


2014 VeriCare Live


Leadership: The time is now

This section last updated: March 1, 2014

Managing animal welfare needs to be more than simply a PR exercise

Courtesy Canada Beef Inc.

There has never been a greater need for livestock industries Canada and beyond to drive real leadership and progress in farm animal care, to anchor a new generation of success.

This feeling has emerged strongly based not only on shifting market demands and the viewpoints of vocal special interest groups, but also on the rising consensus among a broad and growing cross-section of the livestock industry and many of today's "thought leaders" in agriculture on the needs of the future.

No matter where one stands on the issue, one thing abundantly clear is that the issue of animal welfare as it impacts the livestock sector is no longer on the fringe but has moved to the front lines. There are many trends, agendas and perspectives shaping the debate. There are pressures and challenges, but also opportunities.

Producer, industry buy-in critical

It is also clearly a time of major change when producer and industry buy-in is critical. Canada has new Codes of Practice for the Care and Handling of Farm Animals, with new requirements and recommendations. Numerous sectors have adopted or are in the process of developing new Assessment Programs to prove good practices in an era where "trust me doesn't cut it anymore."

International developments are moving quickly with implications for Canada, and there is a flurry of activity and moving parts at a number of different levels, from the World Organization for Animal Health (OIE) to corporate board rooms, to the association level, farm gate and producer level that includes hands-on management approaches. Consumer perceptions, retailer initiatives, animal activist agendas and an increasingly vibrant research and innovation front all hold major influence in the mix.

Across the board, there is rising agreement in animal agriculture that understanding and managing this issue is absolutely critical to have a successful and sustainable livestock sector in Canada and beyond. It has bearing on social license, market access, competitiveness and a host of other essential factors.

Addressing today's evolving expectations

Animal welfare can be a lightning-rod issue and there are often dramatic and diverse perspectives across the spectrum. But for the vast majority of consumers who make the choice to have livestock based products as part of their diet and lives, the expectation is simply that these products are responsibly produced, with animal welfare increasingly being recognized as part of that equation.

Commitment to continual improvement

Livestock production can never be perfect. But many agree the sector does need to be strongly engaged in driving leadership and progress, and building trust on this issue, as part of an ongoing commitment to continual improvement.

A major need identified is to evolving the industry's commitment to farm animal care and communicating more effectively about this commitment. This also makes good business sense because welfare progress makes those driving it more competitive in a global market that increasingly values responsibly produced livestock products.

New leadership examples emerging

This is a landscape rife with often complex demands that calls for progressive and innovative thinking.

It begs the question: Where will the leadership come? But the promising answer is that strong leadership is already rising in various forms, with new examples emerging regularly, some higher profile and some quiet yet effective that are making an important difference.

The Latest – Thinking. Ideas. Developments.

Leadership: Windows on an evolving world

This section last updated: March 4, 2014

Note: This section is regularly updated with new stories. Check back regularly for the most recent version of this VeriCare Live report.

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AMI champions welfare transparency with 'Glass Walls' project

Canada tackles bold new blueprint for farm animal welfare

Lessons from JBS on championing livestock welfare

AFAC launches farm animal care information leadership initiative

What people are saying

Perspectives on progress

This section last updated: March 3, 2014

"As livestock producers, we share the values of making sure farm animals are well cared for throughout their lifetimes and that industry follows best practices based on the latest knowledge."
– Heini Hehli, a Rimbey area dairy producer and Chair of AFAC

"It's absolutely a top priority. We strongly believe we are stewards of our animals. It's our responsibility and we take it seriously."
– Dr. Lily Edwards-Callaway, Animal Welfare Specialist with JBS

"In a market system, the real driver of change is through the consumer. Livestock industries have a license to produce. Society gives the license and it comes with conditions. The challenge is to continually foster understanding and strengthen that relationship. We don't need to be perfect; we don't need to move from zero to light speed. But we should be planning ahead and taking steps to evolve. We should expect change and be part of leading it."
– Dr. James Reynolds of Western University in Ponoma, California

"I believe one of the most powerful ways that animal agriculture will move forward in Alberta is through collaborations between industry, government and research to provide a clear, cohesive, forward-thinking message to the media and consumers."
– Lorna Baird, Executive Director of Alberta Farm Animal Care

"We all share an interest in supporting the welfare of the animals. From an industry perspective, we need to work together to manage our reputational risk and build a resilient supply chain and industry over time. This means doing the right things and adjusting to changing needs."
– Sonya Fiorini, Senior Director, Corporate Social Responsibility, Loblaw Companies Limited

"Farm animal care is becoming one of many larger issues that get thrown in the basket of social license. We need to address it as thoroughly as we do these other issues. We need to be on top of it and be trusted to be on top of it, to be competitive in the marketplace of the future."
– John Kolk, The Straw Man Team

"As a farmer, my first priority is the care and welfare of the animals. I am proud that my farm helps the Canadian pork industry provide consumers a healthy and safe food supply. Any change on farm must be done in a way that protects the welfare of the animals and keeps Canadian farms strong."
– Jean-Guy Vincent, chair, Canadian Pork Council


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